ONTD Political

First up:
The gun owner next door: What you don't know about the weapons in your neighborhood
gun-mapIn May, Richard V. Wilson approached a female neighbor on the street and shot her in the back of the head, a crime that stunned their quiet Katonah neighborhood.

What was equally shocking for some was the revelation that the mentally disturbed 77-year-old man had amassed a cache of weapons — including two unregistered handguns and a large amount of ammunition — without any neighbors knowing.

“I think that the access to guns in this country is ridiculous, that anybody can get one,” said a neighbor of Wilson’s who requested anonymity because it’s not known whether the gunman, whose unnamed victim survived, will return home or be sent to prison. “Would I have bought this house knowing somebody (close by) had an arsenal of weapons? No, I would not have.”

In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and amid renewed nationwide calls for stronger gun control, some Lower Hudson Valley residents would like lawmakers to expand the amount of information the public can find out about gun owners. About 44,000 people in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam — one out of every 23 adults — are licensed to own a handgun.

Anyone can find out the names and addresses of handgun owners in any county with a simple Freedom of Information Law request, and the state’s top public records expert told The Journal News last week that he thinks the law does not bar the release of other details. But officials in county clerk’s offices in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam maintain the public does not have a right to see such things as the specific permits an individual has been issued, the types of handguns a person possesses or the number of guns he or she owns — whether one or a dozen.

Combined with laws that allow the purchase of rifles and shotguns without a permit, John Thompson, a program manager for Project SNUG at the Yonkers Family YMCA, said that leaves the public knowing little about the types of deadly weapons that might be right next door.

“I would love to know if someone next to me had guns. It makes me safer to know so I can deal with that,” said Thompson, whose group counsels youths against gun violence. “I might not choose to live there.”


Source.

The followup:
Journal News' gun-owner database draws criticism

Thousands of people, many from outside Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, have taken to their computers and phones in rage after The Journal News posted an online database of local gun-permit holders.

The database, legally obtained from the County Clerks’ Offices through a Freedom of Information Act request made after the shootings in Sandy Hook, Conn., that left 20 children and eight adults dead, has been called irresponsible, dangerous and leaning toward intimidation by online pundits.

Social media played a big part in the exponential spread of the story, whose map has been recommended more than 20,000 times. Two Facebook posts linking to the article on Sunday garnered 346 comments as of Tuesday evening. That’s in addition to 167 comments posted directly to Facebook.com/LoHud since the article was published.

Numerous additional comments relating to the gun-permit map have appeared on posts in other unrelated articles. More than a dozen more people sent private messages via Facebook objecting to the map. The overwhelming majority of comments strongly object to the article.

The database also was mentioned in the Drudge Report, Memorandum.com, Breitbart.com, Thegatewaypundit.com, Instapundit, iOwnTheWorld.com and UrbanGrounds, along with Yahoo, ABC News and Fox News, among others.

More than 500 comments — on both sides of the debate — accompanied an article on CNN.com Tuesday evening.

Hundreds of callers have complained, claiming publication of the database put their safety at risk or violated their privacy. Others claimed publication was illegal. Many of the callers were vitriolic and some threatened members of the newspaper staff.

“New York residents have the right to own guns with a permit and they also have a right to access public information,” said Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Govenment and an expert in the state’s Freedom of Information law, has said all government records and data are presumed public unless a specific statute bars their release. Names and addresses are specifically deemed public records, he said.

This is not the first time The Journal News has been criticized for publishing information about gun permits. A similar article in 2006 received similar responses, although social media did not play as large a part in the spread of the article or of the complaints.

“We knew publication of the database would be controversial, but we felt sharing as much information as we could about gun ownership in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings,” said CynDee Royle, editor and vice president/news.

“People are concerned about who owns guns and how many of them there are in their neighborhoods,” she said. “Our Freedom of Information request also sought specifics on how many and what types of weapons people owned. That portion of the request was denied.”

Scott F. Williams, 41, of Haddon Heights, N.J., who served in the Marines as a rifleman, was one of the very few callers who agreed to identify themselves and comment on why they called.

“This is what I see,” he said. “It’s all in the context of the shootings in Newtown ... it gets us all talking about gun control. That people are at a heightened concern makes sense to me. I am a gun owner and a pro-Second-Amendment (person). I try to be rational.” He called the newspaper’s decision to link to the database “highly Orwellian.”

“The implications are mind-boggling,” he said. “It’s as if gun owners are sex offenders (and) to own a handgun risks exposure as if one is a sex offender. It’s, in my mind, crazy.”


Source.

Comments at the sources rapidly devolve into wank, view at your own discretion.

Despite the potential for wank, I think this poses a very good question: if we're going to advocate for serious gun control in the US, surely a part of that is total registration of all firearms. Should those records be private, or available to the public? If the records should be public, how much of the information should be available? How easily should it be available (e.g. should you have to file a request, or should it be published in a searchable web page)?
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